book review: the clockwork rocket

What I love about reading Greg Egan books is reading about creatures that are psychologically very recognizable but physically alien. In other books this comes through reading about robots and software, but The Clockwork Rocket is about a species of blobby aliens living in a universe where different colours of light have different speeds.

On their world there are male and female aliens that I picture as macroscopic amoeba type things. Reproduction means the female splits into four children (two males and two females who are brought up as “co”s brother-sisters but also as future mates), whom the father then raises. Yalda is a female who doesn’t have a co. She grows up on a farm and moves to a city and becomes a scientist and eventually leads an expedition away from their world to try and save it from an impending disaster (by using the weird properties of the speed of light in their universe).

There are digressions exploring the nature of light and toroidal universes in this book. Some people might not like them. I did. I also loved the political explorations of birth-control in a species where having children necessarily means the death of the mother. It’s very much an ideas book, and there are sequels, which I’ll definitely read eventually.

book review: throne of the crescent moon

I was one of the first people to get Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon from the VPL but I have to say my anticipation was unwarranted. I was just not a big fan of this book.

It follows Adoullah, an old hunter of ghuls and his sidekick Rassad who is a dervish as they track down the person who created some ghuls (in this setting you can have sand ghuls and skin ghuls and stick ghuls – they’re sort of like zombies, sort of like golems, and eat flesh like ghouls). These ghuls are hugely powerful so they need help. They get help from Adoullah’s friends and they save the city. Huzzah.

My biggest problem with the book was how stilted the language was and how every character’s thought had to be so drawn out in its contractionless dullness. I just couldn’t connect with any of the characters because they seemed like such roleplaying game cliches. It read like flavour text you’d find in an RPG, but drawn out to boring lengths.

The setting was interesting. I would read more stories about this Arabian urban fantasy tale themed world, but I’d rather read about it in more original words.

look what taking myself seriously gets me

Tomorrow I get to wake up and go to work for 9am. I’m getting my LSA1 training. Also, I have been granted leave to go to China so I’ll have a job when I return. That’s pretty nice. It takes the urgency levels off some things and the many contingencies of What I’m Going to do with My Life 2008 Edition get shifted around accordingly. There is much less chance that I’ll leave town before my buddy’s sham wedding now. By next week one of the other major shapers of the contingencies should work out one way or another and I’ll be able to start shifting my plans accordingly.

It turns out the reason the leave approval took so long was because I’d mentioned in my “reason for requesting leave” that I was going to be doing some writing out in China. I used the phrase “for my other job as a freelance writer.” I thought that would add a bit of credibility to my request. Instead of saying I just can’t stand it here anymore this seemed a bit more professional. Everyone knows pages have other jobs. Who cares that I made a whopping $100 from mine last year? Apparently the City cares. They have strict policy of not allowing leave for “other job” reasons. The fact that I won’t be getting a paycheque doesn’t matter.

It’s hard to tell how strict that policy is though, since I did get my leave approved. The approver also said that I should ask for leave before I buy tickets, and that they generally weren’t happy with me. Meh. I’d thought I would be quitting and going to Cairo when I bought those tickets so then it didn’t matter. And I was prepared to walk away from the library to take this trip. It wasn’t an empty threat or anything.

Whatever. I get to go and maybe I get to cover some LSA shifts some day. Those pay a bit extra, I think.